Ordering food is a simple thing really, if you know your way to go about it. In other parts of the world, ordering food is just, well, ordering food! There is no tips and tricks there. You call the waiter, your order your food and bam! 5 minutes later, you got your food. Well, in Malaysia, things are done differently here.
To all the foreigners out there who are sitting down in front of their desk and happen to find this article, you may want to stick around for a little while because this piece is gold! You will know why the next time you visit Malaysia.
Step 1 – Everyone’s a Boss
Now, when you first enter a warung, kopitiam, mamak, do not hang around awaiting to be seated. Why? Because if you do not act fast, you are going to end up losing a place to sit. After securing a seat, do not just look at the waiter expectantly because Malaysian waiters do not understand silent pleas.
Here is a tip for you: Call the waiters boss and all of them will come rushing towards you. If you want to be served, you got to show some respect first.
Step 2 – Say No to Menu
Yes, you did it! You managed to get the waiter’s attention when you call him ‘boss’. Good job, you. So, the waiter is there at your table, eager to hear your order (Malaysian waiters have good memory), do not waste the newly-earned respect from the waiter by asking for a menu. Instead of asking for it, just ask him what is good here.
He will be more than happy to list down everything in a speed faster than Japan’s shinkatsen.
Step 3 – Know the ABC of Ordering
If you have your done your research beforehand, your problem will not be step 2. Since you know what is being served in a typical mamak, kopitiam and warung, you will be thinking, “I know how to order roti canai and a glass of hot tea, what is so difficult about it?” A word from the wise, never be too confident.
In Malaysia, we have codes for the type of drink we want. If you are already an expert, you would know how to different between kopi C, O, kosong and peng. If not, here’s a quick guide for you:
C = with evaporated milk and sugar
O = with sugar only
Kosong = without sugar and milk
Peng = iced
Step 4 – Interpreting Body Language
Waiters abroad love to verbally share their opinions and compliment your choice of food but here in Malaysia, we believe in the language of the body. What do we mean by that? When you are making your order, just glance for a second toward your waiter.
He will be doing some kind of head nod-shake, right? Do not be alarmed because he is not judging you. In fact, it is actually a sign of approval. The next time you see your waiter does it, join in and nod-shake your heads together.
Step 5 – Patience is a Virtue
Malaysians work on their own time. Therefore, do not expect for your food to come as quick as lightning. Going out to eat at a Malaysian warung, kopitiam or mamak makes you an unwilling participant in a game of waiting which the playing time is indefinite.
Instead of bothering the staff with your incessant questions and may put your food in the risk of being tampered with, spend the time by completing some work, read a book, observe your surroundings or play with your phone.
Step 6 – More is Good
If you happen to be dining in a banana leaf joint in Malaysia, do not be shy to ask for a second helping. Here in Malaysia, we do not criticise people for having a healthy appetite. On the contrary, we celebrate it!
You will not be able to smile when you see how the waiter will scurry excitedly to get more food for you because it is a rare occasion for an ang moh like you want a second helping of rice, curry and papadam. (Ang moh is a word of compliment, btw)
Step 7 – Don’t Ask for the Bill
It is okay to ask for the bill if you are dining in a fancy restaurant but it is weird to ask for it when you are dining in a kopitiam, warung or mamak. What makes you think an eatery that requires you to find a seat for yourself will actually bring the bill to the table too?
With these 7 steps, you are now able to order food like a true Malaysian. Is it a great achievement? yes, it is because to find ang mohs that can order like a total boss is as rare as finding panna cotta in a warung mamak.